Will outside groups crush Dems?

Do you think it’s too late for Obama to redeem himself, as this question seems to imply?  If you were advising him, what would you say? And do you think insurgent movements like Occupy Wall Street can help re-inspire the progressive base?

Occupy Wall StreetArena Asks: Democrats across the country are preparing for an onslaught of attacks from American Crossroads, an independent fundraising group that bombed the 2010 elections with negative ads.

Even President Obama seems to acknowledge the shift in power. Will these outside groups give Republicans a big advantage in 2012? And is Obama right to consider himself an “underdog?”

My Answer:Unfortunately for Democrats, the only antidote to democracy is more and better participation in democracy. The Citizens United decision allowing unlimited corporate contributions has plowed up the electoral field. It forces Democrats to counter with more money and greater activism. That’s hard to accomplish when your leader has squandered so much of his first term with futile efforts to appease right wing crocodiles, and as a result has demoralized his base.

So yes, Obama is in a sense an underdog of his own making, but he still owns the bully pulpit. And he still has a year to redeem himself with an aggressive economic agenda and a full throated rhetorical assault against the greedy Tea Party and right-wing religious fundamentalist who would just as soon take us back to the dark ages on both fiscal and social policy.

What the Democrats are unlikely to do, thank goodness, is be as ruthless as the Republicans who as we speak are aiming to win by suppressing the vote in key swing states. The counterpunch must be to engage more Democrats and Independents to get mad and get even.

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

Should voters consider candidates’ religious beliefs?

Don’t get me wrong: I think religious literacy, as in knowing the history and beliefs of various religions including one’s own, is important for every citizen.  And in answer to the question of whether voters should consider candidates’ religious beliefs, I should have added that people need to understand what each of the candidates’ religious beliefs are so as to understand better how that individual might govern. Beyond that…well, read on and let me know what you think. Continue reading “Should voters consider candidates’ religious beliefs?”

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

Is Geithner good for Obama?

Psychology professor Drew Westen’s New York Times commentary “What Happened to Obama?” is good supplementary reading for today’s Arena question. It’s the most on the mark piece I’ve read about Obama’s leadership and why we’re all feeling icky after the “deal.” I’ve been writing about Obama’s leadership problems since the start of his administration: “Is a Good Enough Stimulus Good Enough?”
President Harry Truman
To be fair, many of the constituency groups that supported him have been complicit in not holding his feet to the fire. But we know where the buck stops. I hope against pattern that he will listen to and learn from the S and P downgrade that you might as well go ahead and do what you know is right because your enemies are going to find a way to castigate your decision no matter what. A true leader stays ahead of the opposition and drives the agenda rather than responding and offering “deals.”

Politico TheArena logoArena Asks: The Treasury Department announced yesterday that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will remain in his post through President Obama’s reelection campaign. Is Geithner’s continued post a good thing for Obama’s re-election? Will voters see this decision as a step toward economic stability?

My Answer: When asked if he had a hard time making tough decisions, President Harry Truman replied, “No. If I’m right, the problem’s solved. If I’m wrong it’ll just come back to me as another problem.”

Geithner’s appointment was an easy decision that signaled President Obama’s intent to stick with financial business as usual rather than implement the change his campaign had inspired voters to believe in. That in turn began the slow draining away of public confidence in Obama’s leadership and a rebounding cynicism about his administration’s willingness to make tough decisions, let alone solve problems.

Now, even if Geithner has been doing the best possible job under what have surely been extremely difficult circumstances, his head is likely to roll. That won’t solve the problem. But shaking things up would create a new set of problems for everyone to focus on. Bringing in a different team leader could boost confidence and give Obama back some power with which to push back against Tea Party solutions that merely slash and burn everything in sight except tax advantages for the wealthy.

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

Debt ceiling agreement a fair compromise?

Answering today’s question, I realized there are two distinctly different kinds of deals: those that produce new ideas and those that reduce all ideas to the lowest common denominator.

Politico TheArena logo

Arena Asks:Facing the imminent prospect of default, the White House and Senate Republicans worked through Sunday to close a debt ceiling deal that gives President Barack Obama greater certainty in managing the Treasury’s borrowing needs while making a joint commitment to major deficit reduction without any explicit concessions by the GOP on new tax revenues. Is this a good deal? Which side came out ahead?

My Answer: Unlike Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which created an expansive new vision for America, this Obama–Boehner–Tea Party Deal lowers our sights as a nation. It’s a deal in the negative, narrow, horse trading sense of the word. It is a leadership fail all around.

This deal offers no new solutions to the great problems of our day. Who cares which side came out ahead? It’s clear who’s left behind: the American people.

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

Does Obama need to watch his left flank?

I couldn’t resist answering this one.
No wonder I don’t get my calls returned by the White House.

Politico TheArena logo

Arena Asks: Reporting long-simmering strain between President Barack Obama and his own liberal supporters. Progressives are upset about the White House’s verbal acceptance of a debt ceiling package tilted heavily toward spending cuts, along with this spring’s budget compromise, and the tax cut deal at the end of 2010. Do the president’s past supporters on the left have legitimate gripes? Will Obama face a primary challenge? Should he?

My Answer:Progressives have very legitimate gripes. But the way to vindicate them is to win decisively in House of Representatives races next year. Some stunning progressive victories over Tea Partiers would yield an emboldened Obama too. That’s the better use of progressive energy.

Sanders knows the likelihood of defeating Obama in a primary is slim to none; the purpose would be to send a message and force him to take more progressive stands. Unfortunately, Obama doesn’t lead like an executive–he maneuvers like a legislator. His reaction to direct progressive pressure is petulance, and he tacks farther right. But give him a more reliably progressive House and he’ll jump in front of that parade, where he authentically belongs.

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

Did President Obama make the case for a “fair” debt deal?

Politico TheArena logoArena Asks:  President Barack Obama called on the American people Monday night to send the message to Congress that it must approve a “balanced” approach to resolving the stalemate over the debt ceiling and deficit.

Will the president’s latest plea for a “fair” compromise spur lawmakers to a deal? Are these public appearances helping the president’s cause?

My Answer:  Personally, I’m sick and tired of Obama’s “balanced” approach. I think he must put forward a much stronger agenda to draw the debate closer to his position and engage people emotionally in his vision for the future if he wants to break the logjam.

As Boehner’s response showed, the Republicans see any plea for compromise and balance as blood in the water, an enticement to go after the wounded beast ever more viciously. Despicable is the only word for their intransigence. Their disdain for fairness tickles their base into ecstasy. Are they too full of themselves to see that they are eating the seed corn? Or are they simply too tethered to their extremist base to be able to budge? In either case, their foolish fealty to the Tea Party’s pledges brought us to this precipice.

The president has plenty of room to call the Republicans out on that. He did it well in his speech and should do lots more of it. But that’s simply not enough to stop the Kabuki theater that’s playing like a never ending video loop while the entire world collectively bites its nails.

Yes, the president has to keep talking to the American people. Yes, it’s important for him to remain calm and to explain over and over how the debt has become swollen from Republicans’ unwillingness to allocate the tax burden fairly while being all too willing to start financially draining wars and raise the debt ceiling whenever the sitting president was a Republican. (Check out Ezra Klein’s succinct graphs which illustrate this…) But what will really make the difference is for him to commit to a plan for moving forward with or without them.

The president does have the harder task than the Republicans who merely need to say “no.” But then, that’s why he was elected. I say, less balance and more boldness, please.

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

Will Bachmann Fizzle Like Dean?

Politico’s Arena asked a really interesting question today. I’d love to know what you think and whether you agree with my assessment. Am I too optimistic? OMG I hope not!

Arena Asked: Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) is drawing comparisons in her Republican presidential bid with another longshot candidate – Howard Dean, for a few months in 2003-04 the leading Democratic contender to challenge President George W. Bush. Both have drawn big summer crowds by pledging to confront the opposition party president. But Dean’s campaign fizzled even before voting began. Has Bachmann’s campaign peaked too soon? Will she end up as more of a Dean-like novelty candidate or can she go the distance?

My Answer: That bumper sticker “Dated Dean, Married Kerry” answers this question. Just look what happened after that misbegotten marriage. Choosing the least offensive rather than than the most energizing candidate didn’t serve the party very well, now did it?

Besides, think of a rhetorically fiery woman against Mr. Cool (and often caustically dismissive of others) Obama on the stump.

If I were a Republican consultant, I’d be cheering Bachmann on.

That said, we don’t yet know what Bachmann’s potentially fatal flaw will be. All candidates have them. Thus far, voters seem to be forgiving her almost surreal lack of the most basic historical facts. She approaches everything through an extreme ideological lens that quite literally gives her an alternative view of the universe. Most Americans are fundamentally tolerant and fair people. Her zeal for that rigid, theologically based universe might well cause her to do or say something that will implode her campaign just when she least expects it.

More likely than Bachmann flaming out on her own, however, is that the Tea Party itself will overreach and finally scare the bejesus out of the American voters. She could go down flying their flag when voters realize that when we are all suffering, the solution isn’t to feed those who have caused the pain while starving the rest of us, but rather to hang together, invest in innovation, and grow our way out of the current economic mess.

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

What Does Cantor’s Walk-out Mean for Boehner? (My Politico “Arena” Debut)

Today I posted my first commentary on Politico.com’s Arena page. I’m delighted to have been asked to be a panelist in this rousing and sometimes rowdy political conversation on the hottest topics of the day. The folks at Politico send us questions and panelists can answer or not depending on interest or expertise. The questions are always stimulating, and on days when I respond I’ll be sure to share them with you here on Heartfeldt. But I hope you’ll join me in checking the Arena out every day because it always gets the political junkie juices going.

And it goes without saying that I want to hear from you–feel free to comment here at Heartfeldt on the Politico question of the day whether you think my response was right on or harebrained.

Today’s question: Congressional Republicans, led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), have pulled out of debt-reduction talks with the White House and are demanding that President Obama meet directly with GOP leaders to resolve an impasse over taxes. Republicans said negotiations led by Vice President Biden had ceased making headway.

At this point will House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) be able to make a deal with the White House and Senate Democrats without ticking off his base? And does Cantor’s walk-out give the GOP the upper hand in negotiations?

My response: The Cantor, Kyl, and crew hardline of “no new taxes” cuts the Republicans’ noses to spite their faces. They know full well there will have to be increased revenue as well as decreased spending. And they have no other solutions to offer. They want the Democrats to wear the “tax & spend” albatross, but Cantor has hung the biggest encumbrance around Boehner’s neck.

NPR had cuts of Cantor talking over the last few days and at first, he was all upbeat. By yesterday’s comments, he sounded completely beaten. I doubt that Cantor’s theatrics represent a permanent walking away from the very table the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party worked so hard to get a seat at, however. It’s just a dramatic way to buy time while trying to extract additional pounds of flesh from the American economy already tilted toward the wealthiest few.

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

Giffords Tragedy: What’s the Message to Young Women?

I wrote this article as an exclusive to the Women’s Media Center, and reprint it here with permission. It can’t begin to describe the pain in my heart for those killed or injured, their families and extended networks of friends.

When an angry young man aimed his semiautomatic handgun at Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in a Tucson Safeway store on Saturday, he didn’t just critically wound her and kill or wound 19 others. He fired a shot through the heart of American democracy.

It will fall to rising leaders like Giffords—and girls like nine-year-old Christina Green, killed by the assailant’s gunfire just days after she was elected to her school’s student council—to transform our political community to one where differences can be debated safely and policies decided without fear for anything but re-election prospects.

I feel a deeply personal connection to those horrendous events that occurred during the latest “Congress on Your Corner” public meeting the third-term Democratic congresswoman has held routinely in her district.  Though I was witnessing them from New York, I’m a resident of Scottsdale, 120 miles north of Tucson, and from 1978 to 1996 was CEO of Planned Parenthood in Arizona. I know the state’s wild-west politics quite well. And I’m so familiar with violent extremist attacks upon reproductive health providers that my first reaction was to swing reflexively into “how can I keep colleagues safe and courageous” mode.

Ironically, a moment before the carnage, I was urging Arizona Democratic party activists via Facebook to stop arguing about arcane party rules and get on with fixing the state: to stand firm against roiling bigotry toward immigrants, slashing public education funds while advancing legislation to allow guns in schools, and other  retrograde policies that threaten to make the state an object of derision throughout the country.

Almost immediately after the shootings, I received messages inviting me to a candlelight vigil at the state Capitol. It’s important for people to come together to share their grief while they are absorbing the reality of an unspeakable crime.

But as important as a candlelight vigil might be to heal the rips in our individual souls, healing the social fabric requires infinitely stronger threads.

Nor is it sufficient for public officials to issue statements of shock and condolence, or to lament the decline in civility. No, they should be joining hands together with other community leaders in massive outrage. They should be challenging and changing the systemic dysfunctions that allow the loudest, angriest, most disruptive voices to dominate the airwaves, define the public debate, and heat up the rhetoric to the point that unstable personalities like Jared Loughner inevitably boil over.

We can’t depend on the current leadership of the hypermasculinized political culture that  Jessica Valenti, Feministing executive editor, describes in The Guardian. Our idealization of violent masculinity she says spills over into the political discourse, and is emulated by right-wing women like Sarah Palin, whose electoral target map placed Giffords in her gunsight. It’s a problem Addie Stan described in Alternet as the “Tea Party culture of intimidation.” But the real problem is that the rest of us speak up too little.

Meaningful change will come only if the response to this rupture of democratic process is for those of us who have been underrepresented to multiply our engagement with it. “Hatred can’t be cured,” said a politically active Tucson friend in one of the many e-mails and calls I received over the weekend. Perhaps that’s true, but if we have a chance to remake a civic culture in which such vitriol is at least neutralized, the change will come from leaders like Gabby and what Christina might have become, and they must have the visible, vocal support of the rest of us.

The natural human tendency is to back away from public service after such a frightening episode. But the best way to honor the sacrifices of public servants like Gabrielle Giffords—as well as Judge John Roll who was killed in the attack and all the others—is to create a culture that lifts up and protects leaders who won’t be deterred by anti-government ranting.

Giffords was one of the youngest woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives when she took office January, 2007. I attended her swearing in that day—both of them. The first one was by the first woman speaker of the House, newly elected to that role; the second a symbolic oath administered by former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt in the Capitol rotunda.

“I am very cognizant of those women who made it possible for me to be here,” she told me later in a phone interview. “There is much work still to do. We have not yet achieved full equality… Because I know the work of other women pulled me up, I want to mentor other women and get more women into the pipeline to run for office at all levels.”

I don’t know if Gabby had a chance to meet Christina Green who came to that meeting at Safeway to learn more about politics.  In an MSNBC interview, Christina’s mother Roxanna Green described her daughter–born on 9/11/01 and featured in a book called Faces of Hope, picturing babies born that day. “She’s the face of hope, face of change, the face of coming together as a country to stop the this violence…. She wanted us all to be strong and courageous and brave like she was.”

If there is a lesson to learn from the horrible episode, it is less about decrying our declining civility and more about teaching everyone from their earliest years how a democratic government works. How to debate and discuss issues vigorously, how to embrace controversy in a positive way to elevate public awareness of the issues. To let the passion for public service that drives Gabby Giffords inspire us to emulate her leadership until there are so many of us we cannot be silenced. And to hold close the American values of tolerance and pluralism, of optimism that we can solve problems, and believe that though we are many, we can come together as one to do so. That we are the government.

Actually Gabrielle Giffords herself said it best last year at a Holocaust memorial event, the month after her office was vandalized in apparent retaliation for her vote to support the health reform bill:

‎”We know that silence equals consent when atrocities are committed against innocent men, women and children. We know that indifference equals complicity when bigotry, hatred and intolerance are allowed to take root. And we know that education and hope are the most effective ways to combat ignorance and despair.”

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.